People tend to have a go-to mac and cheese recipe. You know, the one you can practically make in your sleep or, more accurately maybe, the one you find yourself dreaming about when you’re deep in the middle of that sleep.
Mine has no frills: butter, flour, milk, pasta, cheddar, salt and pepper. Even the simplicity of it is comforting. I’ve tried a lot of other recipes, but this one that my mom gave me is still my favorite.
We got a little carried away buying cheese at the market on Saturday and came home with (among other things) a beautiful piece of blue cheese, 2-for-the-price-of-1 wedges of fontina, and a big piece of super sharp cheddar.
So, the mac and cheese plan sort of amped itself up.
I really liked the way this turned out. You can taste the blue cheese in here without it being so bold that it’s overwhelming (e.g., I ate three huge helpings of this without any problem). The smokiness that the rendered bacon adds to the sauce permeates the whole dish and really complements the tender poblano pieces.
The only slight trick to this is getting the fat-to-flour ratio right when you’re thickening up your white sauce. Since we’re using bacon – and all the goodness it leaves behind – you may or may not need to add butter (and, you may actually need to drain some fat off) before you throw in the flour and the milk. Comfort is the order of the day when making mac and cheese, though, so no need to overthink it. Just eyeball it and try to get what you think is 4T of fat in the pan before you add the flour.
So, don’t feel like you’re cheating on your go-to recipe here. Just keep this one in your back pocket for all your happy, accidental cheese finds.
- 4 cups medium shell pasta
- 7 slices bacon, diced
- 2 medium poblano peppers, seeded and diced
- 1 T. unsalted butter
- 4 T. flour
- 3 ½ cups whole milk, warmed
- ½ tsp salt
- ¼ tsp pepper
- 1 ½ cups shredded fontina
- 1 ½ cups shredded extra sharp white cheddar
- 2 oz. blue cheese, crumbled
- ¼ cup seasoned panko
- 1 T. olive oil
- Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Spray a 9×12” baking dish with non-stick cooking spray. Set aside.
- Cook the pasta to al dente. Drain.
- In a large nonstick skillet, cook bacon over medium heat until the pieces are browned and cooked through, about 12 minutes. Remove bacon with a slotted spoon and place on a paper towel-lined plate to drain.
- Add poblanos to the skillet and cook until softened, about 5 minutes. Remove with a slotted spoon.
- Add butter to the rendered bacon fat and let melt. (The amount of butter you need will depend on how much bacon fat you have in the pan. You want to aim for a ratio of 4T fat to 4T flour. I needed 1T. butter).
- Once the butter is melted, whisk in the flour and cook together for one minute. Whisk in the milk and cook, stirring frequently, until sauce is thick. Season with salt and pepper.
- Add fontina, cheddar, and blue cheeses, and stir until totally melted.
- Combine the pasta, sauce, bacon, and poblanos, and stir to combine. Pour the mac and cheese into the prepared baking dish, and top with panko crumbs. Drizzle olive oil lightly over the top.
- Bake for 25-30 minutes, until pasta is bubbling, and crust is brown.